The key reason that I initially went crazy over the great Michael Jackson was because of his visual presentation.
Even though I was just 5, I knew he was something truly special!
I’ve said this time and time again, but this time, I’m mentioning it because of a book that I’ve read recently called, The King of Style: Dressing Michael Jackson. It was written by a guy named Michael Bush, who happened to be MJ’s costume designer for 24 years along with his co-creator Dennis Tompkins.
The book is beautifully illustrated with an endless selection of fashion pieces which were customized specifically for Michael over many years.
A Treat For Jackson Fanatics
Many of his iconic outfits from 1985 forward are included in the photos, and looking at them is truly a treat for a Jackson fanatic like myself. But in spite of the stunning visuals, there is something else that holds my attention even more than those.
The philosophical approach that MJ had for his clothes and overall aesthetic.
The Birth of an Amazing Partnership
Bush met Michael virtually by accident as the legendary artist was in the process of filming the Disney-produced Captain EO in 1985. This is when the novice designer began to provide value to the star little by little until he was eventually hired by Michael to do all types of custom design work on clothes that he wanted.
It became obvious to Bush and Tompkins that Jackson was a huge fan of military regalia and British Monarchs, which is why many of Michael’s well known pieces were designed in that style.
He was always challenging them to figure out his random riddles and his fashion sensibilities so that they would be well versed in what tickled his sartorial fancy.
MJ’s Shoes Were Off-Limits
One of the most interesting aspects of Michael’s fashion philosophy was the way he felt about his shoes. According to Bush, MJ read him the riot act (got super pissed off) when he attempted to polish a pair of black loafers which had been worn during a concert earlier that night by Michael.
Apparently, it was worse than a sin to do anything to improve the quality of his shoes after a performance because they needed to be scuffed and broken in so that Mike could dance and move effectively in them. If they were in perfect condition, there was a good chance Jackson could fall and that would be no good for anyone.
Versace, Hugo Boss, Gucci — No Deal
There were tons of designers, many of them big name elite fashion houses all over the world that constantly wanted Jackson to wear their offerings. He was always steadfast with his philosophy of maintaining his individuality.
He felt that fashion magazines would tell the world what to wear, and he couldn’t get behind that idea.
He wanted people to copy him and of course he considered himself to be the ultimate trendsetter. I marveled at these revelations because there has always been something so cool to me about being different from other people style-wise.
Michael would even send Bush and Tompkins overseas to scout the fashion of people in the streets. This was meant to hopefully gain an edge over the States, which is typically behind the art, culture and fashion trends curve compared to places like Europe and London.
MJ was relentless in his pursuit for excellence and originality which is exactly the way that he was in his music and his short films.
The Correct Accessories Draw Attention and Creates Awe
Bush talks about the necessary elements of Michael’s outfits. If they were for the stage, they needed to be comfortable and function the way they should based on the way he moved.
Accessories were an essential aspect of his visual presentation. He was a huge fan of anything that sparkled or shined, because the stage lights would reflect off rhinestones, sequins and crystals. This is one of the key reasons he famously wore sparkly socks.
The crystals, rhinestones or sequins would draw attention to the magic that his feet would produce when he would dance in his mesmerizing ways. This is also why he began wearing white medical type on the tips of his fingers during “The Bad Era” in 1987; he would point and the crowd’s attention would be fixed on the white tape.
According to Bush, Michael wore the tape on just three of his fingers because anything more than three would be “too ordinary.” He wore it on the index, ring and pinky fingers, and MJ “loved” when people would ask him why.
That mysteriousness and oddness continues to endear Michael to me.
The book provides a very compelling look at the less talked about creativity of Michael Jackson. His trendsetting fashion remains a cultural phenomenon and we now know the how and the why. The King of Style is a noteworthy addition to any collection of Michael Jackson reads.